WCAV-WVAW-WAHU | Charlottesville, Virginia | News

The Charlottesville Police Department And The Black Community (Part I)

By: Summer Knowles
By: Summer Knowles
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November 24, 2005

After a local African American man was arrested for rape, police were hopeful the man accused was the serial rapist.

After DNA testing cleared him of rape, he told the Newsplex he was arrested because of the color of his skin.

The incident infuriated many in the black community and didn't do much for an already fragile relationship with the Charlottesville Police Department.

It's an issue that cities across the country are dealing with and Charlottesville is no exception.

Some members from the black community are expressing concerns about racial profiling and a general lack of respect from the Charlottesville Police Department.

"They come in with their boots on the ground like they're the Gestapo or somebody, and that's not the way we want to be treated," said local resident James Burton. "We want to be treated the same way they treat whites, no different."

Burton was born and raised in Charlottesville and said the relationship between blacks and the city's police department is in bad shape.

"It seems that [white police officers] already have a preconceived notion that you've messed up without even getting any information, without even getting the facts, simply because you live, say, on Cherry Ave., simply because you live on Dice St."

Local resident Sharon Jones agrees there is a problem. "Black males are stereotyped here in town. [If] they drive a half way decent car they'll most likely be pulled over," she explained.

Jones, a mother of a newborn and pre-teen, says she worries all of the time. Her concern is they might one day be at the wrong place at the wrong time and fall victim to racial profiling.

"My son is only 12, but I do worry when he's of age [if he will] be able to go out by himself. [I worry] as to what might happen," Jones said.

Charlottesville's Police Department says it doesn't condone or participate in racial profiling.

The department does however use criminal profiling to predict criminal behavior and make arrests, which means race is used but in addition to age, gender, criminal history, and other factors.

"We try to go about our work in a fair and objective and partial way that's consistent with the law, and sometimes things happen that may give the perception that we've acted inappropriately or in a fashion that's unwarranted, but I don't think that that's the case," said Police Chief Tim Longo.

Friday night at 11 p.m. Part II of this story will address additional concerns from the black community about the police department, and will share a local criminology expert's take on the issues of racial and criminal profiling in Charlottesville.


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